Washington (CNN) — Struggling again with an issue important to women and minority groups, House Republicans on Thursday failed to pass their version of a new Violence Against Women Act and then split over a Senate version that won approval with unanimous Democratic support.
The measure now goes to President Barack Obama, who said in a statement that it was “an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear.”
“I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk,” Obama said.
Thursday’s votes reflected an emerging political reality in the GOP-led House, with a minority of Republicans joining Democrats to pass legislation supported by the public, including increasingly influential demographics such as Hispanic Americans.
By a vote of 166-257, the GOP version of the Violence Against Women Act failed to win a majority after almost 90 minutes of debate. The House then voted 286-138 to pass the Senate version, with 87 Republicans joining all 199 Democrats to provide majority support.
Originally passed in 1994 and reauthorized since, the act provides support for organizations that serve domestic violence victims. Criminal prosecutions of abusers are generally the responsibility of local authorities, but the act stiffened sentences for stalking under federal law.